Christmas Exclusion: A Contemporary Blackfacing Tradition

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In the Netherlands, Christmas tradition involves Sinterklaas being accompanied by Zwarte Piet, a black-skinned ‘assistant’ who kids are made to be scared of. Usually, Piet is a blackfaced light-skinned person with fake Afro hair, large red lips and a traditional-looking outfit, similar to that of harlequin. Kids dress up as Zwarte Piet as do adults for public Christmas celebrations while Christmas-themed shopwindows and advertisements continuously reproduce the aesthetics of the blackfacing tradition.

In recent years, the annual parade has started to be accompanied by demonstrations against the racism of the narrative of Zwarte Piet and its Everyday incarnations and is, year by year, answered withextreme police brutality – which the Netherlands sees seldomly, except on the occasion of protests against Zwarte Piet. Police even developed the habit of separating dark- and lighter-skinned protesters, beating and arresting the darker-skinned while sending others away with mere warnings. – A prime example of the ‘normality’ of mainstream culture.